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CLEVELAND – The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry calls it an “epidemic.”  In the U.S. early childhood dental decay is found in 27 percent of all children under the age of six. But, that can be prevented and it starts with taking care of the baby teeth. A pediatric dentist at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital is giving 18-month-old Mayer Berlin his first oral exam.   Mom has found it is never too early to start good dental care. “I know that a lot of things are found in the mouth and so I think it is important to see a doctor early on to see that their overall health is good,” Ellie Berlin said.

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Dr. Jerry Ferretti, Chief of Pediatric Dentistry at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital said a child should first see the dentist between 12-18 months of age. Even baby teeth can get cavities. “If they are in by 2 or 3 years of age and they’ve got 10-15 teeth that are decayed, it’s too late.  That’s why we really need to seem them at an early age,” he said.

Dr. Ferretti stressed that good oral hygiene and a good diet are important for good teeth. “The diet is to make sure that children are not eating a lot of sticky, sugary foods.  They’re not drinking juice out of a sippy cup all the time, all day long. If you don’t watch your diet and clean your teeth, it only takes 6-12 months for cavities to form,” Dr. Ferretti added.

Mayer’s older sister Suri, who is 3 ½ years old, regularly comes to the dentist’s office for a routine cleaning and a checkup. “We try to get into the habit , so they are used to seeing a dentist every six months or so,” Suri’s mom said.

And, Suri has developed some good dental care habits of her own. She brushes her teeth morning and at night, and she flosses.  And, the dentist takes one more step towards preventing tooth decay by applying a fluoride varnish sealant. “The fluoride varnish is a very good agent to help re-mineralize beginning cavities and to help kill the plaque would have been on the teeth,” Dr. Ferretti added.

Dentists at Rainbow Babies and Children’s Hospital are training pediatricians across the country on how to apply the fluoride varnish to children three years and under.   Getting that fluoride application up to four times a year is helping to reduce the amount of dental decay in young children.

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